We are deep into autumn now, with winter already beginning to snap at its heels.
The butterflies are long gone, and shadows lengthen as the sun’s arc sinks lower each day. Temperatures have noticeably dropped, though we have yet to experience our first frost, while morning mists often enshroud the landscape. There has been plenty of rain here; some days sunshine breaks through the cloud cover, while other days limp along grey and wet from dawn to dusk. The field beside us has become a mud-bath, prompting the cows to finally be moved into barns for the winter. We usually have sheep in here over winter, but they’ll find slim grazing in this swamp…
The fading tones of the garden seem a riot of colour in contrast to this monochrome vista! Lythrum virgatum’s autumn hues are particularly eye-catching: shades of green, gold and red.
The acers, of course, are the stars of the show at this time of year. The deliciously dark leaves of A. palmatum var. dissectum ‘Garnet’ are shot through with fiery red now, despite their wind-scorched tips.
Torn paper skeletons of poppy seed heads stand out against this dramatic backdrop – these seeds dispersed rather more conventionally than those in my last post!
The four clumps of Sedum spectabile are a daily recrimination for my reluctance to employ the ‘Chelsea Chop’ on their handsome mounds back in May. Their stems sprawl heavily outwards, crashing onto their neighbours and leaving gaping empty spaces at their hearts. Next year, I must not be lulled by their tight spring structure but must stay resolute in cutting them back to avoid such a catastrophe again; though from a distance they are not quite so disastrous in appearance, their rich burgundy flowerheads still adding drama to the borders.
A few clusters of Verbena bonariensis flowers still dance through the borders, though most are brown seedheads now. A stray bloom of Dianthus carthusianorum was a surprise this week, perfectly placed by the pink and purple fuchsias which are in a late flush, and our Dahlia ‘fake Hillcrest Royal’ which continues to pump out blooms.
One of my hot favourites in the garden this year has been Calamagrosis acutiflora ‘Karl Foester’, bought at Malvern last spring; a magnificent stand of green leaves which pushed up from the ground in March to reach five or six feet tall, topped with bronze plumes mid-summer, which have now thinned and faded elegantly, the whole unbowed by wind or rain all year.
Quietly magnificent indeed, this plant. I’m thinking about splitting off some of its outer shoots in the spring to repeat along the fence line. Another scribbled idea in my mind to be transferred to a notepad of dreams and schemes over the winter. In the meantime, there are still tulips to be planted up, and several other lingering jobs to do in the garden, including pulling up the greenhouse crops – but who would have thought we’d still be picking cucumbers in November? Our ‘Crystal Apples’ have been a non-stop delight since mid-summer. Definitely one to grow again next year.